Self-host an email server without self-host an email server in 2023
Spoiler alert: not really, emails are still stored in [your-favorite-privacy-protector], I simply gained unlimited aliases and I can send emails from those aliases too.
This is enabled by “free” infrastructures, each responsible for its own specialty:
- Catch-all address: any email service would suffice.
- Cloudflare Email Routing: reroutes all emails sent to a root domain to the catch-all address.
- (almost optional) SMTP2Go to send from arbitrary aliases: Mailgun and Amazon SES don’t allow this, or at least not easily.
- (optional) Mailgun for routing emails to subdomains: Cloudflare requires an enterprise subscription to do this, so for every new subdomain like
mail.ahxxm.com, I go through similar procedures — verify a domain with MX and TXT record, setup a catch-all address again.
Sending from arbitrary aliases isn’t always possible, mobile devices don’t want users to have their own SMTP settings, I use Thunderbird on my desktop.
How I Ended Up Here
I have intermittently used Google GSuite since it was free, and started paying for the service before it raised the price to $6/month. However, it recently failed to renew one of my domains. Customer service promised to respond in 24 hours with confidence, but as of writing, they have been very silent for more than 72 hours.
I also host a docker-mailserver since 2021, which was quite stable until the VPS was migrated to another host that also blocks 465 and 587 by default, not to mention outgoing traffic from 25. (This safe default value doesn’t affect too many people, and the customer service is very responsive, I’ve no complaints.)